Words By - Tyler Land
As a lifelong Floridian, hurricanes never really bothered me all that much. Yes, I absolutely have always respected the
m and the awesome destruction they can leave in their wake. Yes, I make the necessary preparations when they come, but they’ve never really scared me or anything like that. I guess it’s because always living in Florida, I’ve known no different. They’ve just always be
en a part of life. You know they’re going to happen from time to time and so you just do the best you can when they visit and take it in stride. Clean up the mess after they roll through and go on with life. There’s really nothing else you can do. At least, that was my outlook until October 10, 2018.
For everyone in the Tri-State area, October 10, 2018 marks a well-defined line of demarcation. It forever will. It was the day Hurricane Michael slammed into us and, for lack of a better way to put it, nearly wiped us off of the map. At least that’s what it felt like. Since that day, life has been measured in two parts—life before that day and life after that day. It’s similar to the day Pearl Harbor was bombed or 9/11. In just a few short hours, our farmers essentially lost their entire crop they had worked so hard on that year. And it was a bumper crop. The best we’d had in a few years. To add insult to injury, some lost their homes, barns, and even equipment. It was the epitome of losing everything in the blink of an eye.
In this area, we had never experienced such destruction from a hurricane on that grand of a scale. At least not in my lifetime. Hopefully, we never do again. Ever since that day, I view hurricanes in a different light. Granted, they still don’t terrify me, but I watch them closer and have a new appreciation for what they can do. The thought that devastation like that “can’t happen here” no longer enters my mind. Clearly, it can.
So when Sally formed in the Gulf recently and started heading north, to say some PTSD feelings started floating around in my head would be accurate. Harvest had begun for us, just like in 2018. The crop was looking great, just like in 2018. We started picking peanuts on Labor Day and they were doing good both in yield and grade, just like in 2018. Cotton was close to being ready to defoliate. So, like Michael, Sally’s timing was terrible. We got rained out of the field the Thursday before Sally hit. It then continued to rain off and on for the next few days so we weren’t able to get back in the field before the storm made landfall.
Thankfully, we dodged a direct hit, but we didn’t escape unscathed. I got 11.6 inches of rain at my house. I actually got more, but I can’t tell you the exact number because my gauge was running over when I went out and checked it one time. No idea for how long. But I can definitively say I got at least 11.6 inches somewhere in a 24-hour span of time. Since then, it’s been cloudy and we’ve been dealing with off and on rain so we still have not been back in the field. So, we’re pushing the 2-2.5 week mark of being out of the field. I’m sure some of the rest of you are in the same situation.
When Michael rolled through back in 2018, the results were clear cut. The crop was either gone, mostly gone, or significantly damaged. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid. You immediately knew what you were dealing with after the fact. Right now, for us at least, we’re dealing with this strange and stressful state of limbo. We need to be back in the field. We want to be back in the field. So we’re constantly asking questions like “when will the weather break so we can get back in the field?” “Is it going to break or are we stuck in this pattern for the foreseeable future?” “What will be left of the peanut crop when we finally make it back to the field?” “What’s this going to do to the cotton crop?” “Do we go ahead and defoliate or do we hold off a little longer?” “How much of a yield loss are we looking at?” “How much of a grade drop?” “Will the peanuts all go Seg?”
We had peanuts that needed to be out of the ground at the time the storm hit. We’ve got open cotton that’s been under water so it’s probably sprouted in the boll. So with each passing day, we are asking these questions with more and more intensity. Although we don’t like to think about it, we know that with every day that passes those peanut stems are getting weaker and that’s more peanuts that we will lose. I’m sure some of you reading this are having these same thoughts.
The unknown is a scary and dangerous place. It can do terrible things to your blood pressure and psyche. But, farmers live in the unknown year after year. Heck they’ve homesteaded there. We have absolutely no control over the weather so we must play the hand we are dealt and make the best we can out of what we get. It’s just part of it. It is a risk we accept.
So what is there to do? What will we do? How are we to face this adversity? There’s only one thing to do and it is the same thing we have always done. We put one foot in front of the other and move forward. It’s all that we can do. It’s all we’ve ever done—in good times and bad. As is often said, “this too shall pass.” The weather will eventually and inevitably change and we will get back in the field and harvest a crop—or what’s left of it. Unfortunately, there will be a loss, but fondly do we hope and fervently do we pray that the loss isn’t too substantial and we’re able to squeak out another year.
So keep your chin up. Look forward to tomorrow—and next year. I wish you a happy harvest. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Stay safe out there. And until next time, farm on, farm hard, and keep it in the field rows.